Amongst composers who operated in the first half of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky has few peers. The Russian-born student of Rimsky-Korsakov was born in 1882 and rose to fame through three extraordinary pieces for Ballets Russes -- 1910's The Firebird, 1911's Patrushka, and 1913's The Rite of Spring.
The thundering bass drum of The Rite, which literally incited a riot at its opening, marked a lasting sea change for Western music: its supreme dissonance broke down the last walls of modernism. World War I prevented the ballet from touring, so he wrote chamber works and took a startling interest in 18th-century Italian music, resulting in a revivalist movement known as neo-classicism (best heard in 1920's Pulcinella). Even though he held French and, later, American citizenship, his Russian roots were deep, as heard in orchestrations of Tchaikovsky, settings of Russian folk tunes, and his return to the Orthodox Church. In 1939, he moved to the US, producing late works in The Rake's Progress and 1945's Symphony in Three Movements. He conducted and made recordings until his death in 1971.